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New Haitian government has to prove itself before receiving millions in blocked aid

The decision by Haitian President, Jovenel Moïse, to appoint a new prime minister and cabinet to run the country’s daily affairs without a political agreement with the opposition  will not guarantee that the country gets millions of dollars desperately needed international aid.

President of Haiti Jovenel Moise (Photo: reuters.com)

That’s the message from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which had agreed to provide Haiti with US$229 million in loans at zero per cent interest before the country’s Lower Chamber of Deputies fired Prime Minister, Jean Henry Céant last March.

The IMF says it is now in a wait-and-see mode before making a decision on the release of the promised aid.

“The Fund stands ready to engage with Haiti on potential financial support when conditions permit,” IMF Mission Chief for Haiti Nicole Laframboise told the Miami Herald. He added that the IMF has no position on the recent political appointments by Moïse, which were done by presidential decree and without consulting the opposition, which is desirous by the IMF.

The IMF had previously agreed to provide Haiti with US$229 million in loans at zero per cent interest.

According to the IMF Mission Chief, “What we need is some evidence that the government in place, whatever form it takes, is willing and able to implement policies that would restore economic stability and put the economy on the path to sustainability. Based on recent history and policy implementation, this may take some time.”

In January, Moïse began ruling by executive order after the terms of most members of Parliament expired because the country failed to hold legislative elections on time. Foreign diplomats, who had led the failed negotiations to resolve the crisis, had pressed Moïse and the opposition to reach a political accord to form a consensus government so that elections could be scheduled and the international aid could be unlocked.

In addition to the aid package from the IMF, which now has to be renegotiated, Haiti stood to receive an additional $60 million from the European Union, Inter-American Development Bank and World Bank if certain IMF conditions were met. They included adopting a social protection policy for the most vulnerable, setting up a steering committee to help combat corruption and reporting the assets of elected officials.

Haiti had also stood to receive an additional $60 million from the European Union, Inter-American Development Bank and World Bank if certain IMF conditions were met.

Earlier this week, the United Nations issued a humanitarian appeal for $253 million, saying millions of Haitians are potentially facing famine. Days later, the US State Department, citing resurgence in kidnappings for ransom, raised the travel warning for its citizens to Level 4 ‘Do Not Travel to Haiti’.

Following its most recent visit to Port-au-Prince, the IMF’s executive board issued a catastrophic and bleak outlook for Haiti’s immediate future. The political crisis and civil unrest that had shut down most economic activity in the country last year had taken a toll on the economy and an already vulnerable population, the board concluded.

Inflation had exceeded 20 percent annually; the country’s budget deficit had widened to 3.8 per cent of gross domestic product, or $297,785,320, and the government was significantly behind on debt payments. “Absent sustained implementation of good policies and comprehensive reforms, the outlook remains grim,” the board said.

Haiti’s Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe stands for the national anthem at the end of his inauguration ceremony in the National Palace of Port-au-Prince (Photo: reuters.com)

The board also said a resolution of the current crisis, coupled with the appointment of a new government committed and able to implement reforms, and return of support from the international community, could lead to higher investment and potential growth.

Though members of the international community attended Wednesday’s swearing in of newly appointed Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe, who appealed to the opposition for peace in his acceptance speech, the crisis appears far from resolved.

In the wake of the appointments, the leaders of political parties among them OPL, Fusion and INIFOS, made it clear that they were not part of the consultations Moïse said he held before presenting his new government.

Leaders also quickly distanced themselves from ministers in the government claiming to be members of their political parties.

In a radio interview on Thursday, Paul Denis, a former justice minister , who had been part of the negotiations for a political accord to establish a consensus government, called the president “a bluffer,” and said the opposition needed to give him a response.